Bronx Zumba instructor is the best of the ‘Worst Cooks in America’ 

Mentors Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay with recruits including Adrian Read (third from the right) on "Worst Cooks in America," season 17. Photo Credit: Jason DeCrow

He was tasked with creating an original dish that could withstand a blind taste test.

Mentors Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay with recruits including Adrian Read (third from the right) on "Worst Cooks in America," season 17.
Mentors Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay with recruits including Adrian Read (third from the right) on "Worst Cooks in America," season 17. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Before appearing on “Worst Cooks in America,” Bronx resident Adrian Read’s culinary skills topped out at cooking frozen chicken and broccoli. Nine episodes in the boot-camp kitchen later, his go-to remains mostly the same.

“I’m happy to say I’m still eating chicken and vegetables, but I’ve definitely been incorporating some of the techniques I learned,” says Read, 29, who grew up in the South Bronx. “Now, instead of just boiling the vegetables, I’ll steam them, put them on a pan and stir fry them.”

Read, who teaches a Zumba and chair fitness class at a senior center in the borough, showed off his veggie skills in the season finale of the Food Network show, in front of celebrity chef judges Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell.

He was tasked with creating an original dish — incorporating all of the culinary skills he’s learned his season — that could withstand a blind taste test. He pulled it all off, and headed back to the Bronx with the series’ $25,000 grand prize.

We chatted with Read ahead of his big win. 

What were you thinking going into this competition? Did you expect to make it this far?

Oh, man. Going in, I just didn’t want to get eliminated in the first episode. I didn’t want to be the one to have to walk out right away. After that, I was just trying to survive. Every time we faced elimination, it was a different atmosphere. You know someone’s going home so everyone’s tense.

No matter the outcome, are you leaving with a new view on cooking?

Yeah, of course. For me, before this, the kitchen was just a gray area where I’d go to just to get my nutrition. I looked at food more like a functional thing, basically just to preserve my body. Now, it’s different. I look into my pantry and see the spices and see how I can try to make something different. Unfortunately, I do not have a pantry like I did in boot camp, but if I did, I definitely would be more adventurous.

Why did you decide to come on "Worst Cooks"?

It was a conversation I was having with my sister. My sister is a huge fan of the show and one day she was like you’d do pretty well on it because you really need help. I thought she was just joking, but she helped me film my audition tape. She had to be the one to try my delicious food.

What did you make?

For the audition, we had to make something we never made before. For me, that was everything. One thing — even now I still don’t know how to mess with it — is fried food. I decided, instead, to learn how to make healthy food taste good. So, I took broccoli and used crushed cereal and tried to fry that. It did not come out great. I also tried a Dominican dish my mom makes, pastelito. It looks like an empanada.

Do you try to incorporate Dominican spices and dishes into your cooking?

For the audition tape, I wanted to be more adventurous with it. But the only experience I have with Dominican food is with eating. My mom cooks everything. I don’t know what spices, seasonings; I have to think outside the box. 

Meghan Giannotta